San Jac Certified: construction management graduate sees education as an ‘accelerator’
04.16.2015 | By Rob Vanya
San Jacinto College graduate Jim Hodges, left, looks over construction project plans with Archie Devault, shop superintendent for Total Industrial Services. Education Hodges received through the College’s construction management program helped accelerate and enhance his career. Photo credit: Rob Vanya, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations, and government affairs department.
Jim Hodges earned an associate degree in construction management from San Jacinto College in 2005. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a project management concentration from Colorado Technical University. He serves as vice president of JV Driver Industrial Services, a subsidiary of the JV Driver Group U.S., located in Deer Park, where he manages a wide range industrial construction projects.
QUESTION: What attracted you to the construction management career field?
JIM HODGES: My family has been in the construction business for several generations, so it was sort of a natural career path for me. I started at the very bottom, as a laborer cleaning up construction sites, and worked my way up to be a construction helper, and then worked up to be a skilled craftsman, working as a pipefitter for several years. I continued to learn the business and eventually became a field engineer, and later a project manager. It’s been a great career for many years.
Q: Since you were already fairly successful in the business, why did you feel the need to pursue college education?
JH: I look at education as an accelerator and a steppingstone to greater success and fulfillment. My time at San Jacinto College enabled me to gain technical knowledge at a much faster pace. I was able to quickly become proficient in multiple areas of the construction trade, things like scheduling, handling finances, etc. For instance, one of my courses was surveying. I had never surveyed before, but through education I learned valuable information about surveying that has been useful to me in construction management. San Jacinto College made me more professional and more well-rounded as a construction manager. Not only did I gain valuable technical knowledge of the industry, I also learned valuable leadership skills, as well as time management, social, and communication skills.
Q: The field of study you learned at San Jacinto College is construction management. What is the difference between a construction worker and a construction manager?
JH: A construction worker typically learns a skilled trade, such as welding, pipefitting, electrical work, carpentry, or plumbing. Simply put, construction workers typically build and assemble things, whereas construction management team members support the building of things, coordinating all of the resources, deliverables, and reports, etc. in order to manage construction projects in a safe and cost-effective way that enables the trade professionals to perform at their best.
Q: It’s no secret that falling oil prices have led to some downturn in certain sectors of the Houston region. Do you sense any significant downturn in the construction business?
JH: No, not at all, because our economy is very diversified. Also, many do not realize that lower crude oil prices are actually contributing to an uptick in some types of industrial construction.
Q: That’s interesting. Please explain.
JH: In many petrochemical plants in the region, the primary feed stocks are found in natural gas. Low crude prices means low natural gas prices. When there is an overabundance of natural gas at low prices, many chemical companies are able to boost production and expand facilities. That creates more construction jobs. Many petrochemical markets are booming along the Gulf Coast. In fact, the petrochemical industry is predicting a coming labor shortage. They are saying that planned facility expansions in the Gulf Coast area will create a high demand for construction workers and construction managers.
Q: So, from your observations, it looks like the job outlook is good for construction related jobs in the area.
JH: Yes. With Houston being the largest petrochemical refining area in the nation, I believe there are plenty of industrial construction jobs here, and will be for many years. And, according to news reports I have seen recently, the commercial and residential construction areas are also strong and do not show any signs of slowing down.
Q: Many perceive that the construction business is sporadic and cyclical, and that it generally requires a lot of travel. From your experience, are these accurate perceptions?
JH: I have worked nonstop in the business for 28 years, and I can tell you from experience that those perceptions are not necessarily the case. If a person is well trained, has a good education, does a good job, and has a good work ethic, then construction can be a very steady and rewarding career, as it has been for me. Also, there are so many construction jobs in the Houston area that a construction worker or construction manager does not necessarily have to travel.
San Jacinto College offers a range of construction management courses and degree options at the North Campus, as well as construction management online courses. For more information, please visit sanjac.edu/construction-management-technology.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.